Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: November 17, 2020

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, where we track the status of reopening in all 50 states and summarize major changes due to the coronavirus pandemic in politics, government, and elections. Today we look at:

  • New coronavirus restrictions in Washington
  • An expanded mask mandate in West Virginia
  • State-level mask requirements
  • Lawsuits about state actions and policies 
  • Travel restrictions
  • 1918 pandemic story
  • Diagnosed or quarantined public officials

Want to know what we covered in our previous edition on Nov. 12? Click here.

The next 72 hours

What is changing in the next 72 hours?

  • Michigan (divided government): On Nov. 15, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced a three-week ban on indoor dining and in-person high school and college instruction across the state beginning Nov. 18. She also announced that events at movie theaters, concert halls, and other indoor entertainment venues had been canceled.
  • Ohio (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Nov. 16, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced the Ohio Department of Health had issued new restrictions on weddings and funerals. Beginning Nov. 17, the order prohibits dancing or congregating and requires guests to be seated at all times. Masks must also be worn unless eating or drinking. On Nov. 13, the Ohio Department of Health had signed a health order that strengthened enforcement of the state’s existing mask order. The updated order included new requirements for retail stores, requiring they post signage and ensure six feet of distance between customers. The order also included details on how the state will enforce the face-covering order, including through inspections, notices, and temporary closures.
  • Oklahoma (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Nov. 16, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) announced that face coverings would be required on state property, and bars and restaurants would have to close by 11 p.m. for indoor service beginning Nov. 19.
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued statewide restrictions effective Nov. 18 through Dec. 2. The order limits restaurants to delivery and curbside pickup services. Social gatherings will be limited to six people or less. Gyms and all indoor and outdoor recreational facilities (including zoos, pools, and museums) will be closed. Religious services will be limited to 25 people indoors or 50 people outdoors. The order will not change restrictions on personal care service businesses like barbershops.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Sunday, Nov. 14, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced that all counties would need to reimpose some coronavirus restrictions. Effective Nov. 16, social gatherings with members of a different household are prohibited unless those individuals quarantine for 14 days or quarantine for seven days and receive a negative COVID-19 test. Additionally, outdoor social gatherings are limited to five people from outside the household. The new restrictions also include the closure of gyms, bowling alleys, movie theaters, and capacity restrictions on retail stores. Beginning Wednesday, Nov. 18, restaurants and bars will be closed to indoor service, while outdoor service will be limited to a maximum of five people. 

Since our last edition

What is open in each state? For a continually updated article on reopening status in all 50 states, click here.

  • Alaska (divided government): Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) issued eight new health orders, effective Nov. 16. Included in the orders is updated guidance for interstate, intrastate, and international travel.
  • California (Democratic trifecta): The California Department of Public Health expanded the state’s mask requirements. The new guidance requires individuals to wear masks whenever they are outside of their homes unless they are outdoors and can maintain six feet of social distancing. Masks are not required while eating or drinking, driving in a car with household members, or working in a private office space. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) also moved 28 counties back to the purple (most restrictive) phase of reopening, which prohibits indoor service at state-defined non-essential businesses like gyms and restaurants.
  • Georgia (Republican trifecta): On Friday, Nov. 13, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) issued an executive order extending the state’s coronavirus restrictions through the end of the month, including a ban on gatherings of 50 or more people. 
  • Hawaii (Democratic trifecta): Gov. David Ige (D) issued a mask order extending the state’s requirements. Under the new rules, masks are required in all public settings except outdoors while social distancing can be maintained. The order also requires businesses to deny service to people who refuse to wear a face covering. Businesses that do not enforce the rules are subject to fines and closures. 
  • Idaho (Republican trifecta): Gov. Brad Little (R) moved the state backward in reopening from Stage 3 to modified Stage 2. Under the new rules, indoor and outdoor gatherings larger than 10 people are prohibited. Religious and political gatherings are exempt from the limit but must maintain social distancing. 
  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, Nov. 11, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) announced that county-level coronavirus restrictions would go into effect on Nov. 15. For counties in the state’s orange level of concern, gatherings are limited to 50 people, and large events need the approval of the local health department. Gatherings in counties classified as “red” are limited to 25 people.  
  • Iowa (Republican trifecta): On Nov. 16, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) announced an indoor face-covering requirement for all individuals over the age of two in public spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. Reynolds also announced that indoor gatherings will be limited to 15 people, while outdoor gatherings will be limited to 30. 
  • Maine (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced Massachusetts is no longer exempt from the state’s travel restrictions, effective Nov. 16. Travelers from Massachusetts have to quarantine for 14 days or present a recent negative test upon arriving in Maine. 
  • Minnesota (divided government): On Tuesday, Nov. 10, Gov. Tim Walz (D) announced new coronavirus restrictions would take effect Nov. 13. Indoor and outdoor private gatherings are limited to 10 people from a maximum of three households, and capacity at bars and restaurants is limited to 50%. Additionally, wedding and funeral receptions are limited to 50 people beginning Nov. 27 and 25 people beginning Dec. 11.
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an order lowering indoor gathering limits from 25 to 10 people, effective Nov. 17. Starting Nov. 23, outdoor gatherings will be limited to 150 people, down from 500. The state also issued guidance for long-term care facility holiday visitation.
  • New Mexico (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) issued a statewide order Nov. 13 requiring nonessential businesses to stop all in-person activity, effective Nov. 16-30. Restaurants are limited to delivery and curbside pickup. Religious services and state-defined essential retail spaces are not allowed to exceed the lesser of 25 percent occupancy or 75 total individuals. Gatherings of up to 5 people from different households are still allowed. For a full list of restrictions on business and individual activities, click here to view Lujan Grisham’s full executive order.
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) issued an order requiring restaurants and bars statewide to close for dine-in service (including outdoor dining) by 10 p.m. every night, starting Nov. 13. The order requires gyms to close at the same time and limits indoor and outdoor gatherings to 10 people.
  • North Carolina (divided government): The state’s limit on indoor gatherings was reduced from 25 to 10 people on Nov. 13. 
  • Vermont (divided government): On Friday, Nov. 13, Gov. Phil Scott (R) issued a series of new coronavirus restrictions that were scheduled to take effect Nov. 14. The restrictions include a ban on in-person service at bars, a requirement that restaurants close by 10 p.m. each night, and a prohibition on multi-household social gatherings or holiday celebrations. 
  • Virginia (Democratic trifecta): On Friday, Nov. 13, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) issued an executive order lowering the limit on indoor and outdoor public and private gatherings from 250 to 25 and requiring Virginians five and older to wear a face covering in public settings. Additionally, the order prohibits the serving of alcohol after 10:00 p.m. The order took effect Sunday, Nov. 15.
  • West Virginia (Republican trifecta): On Friday, Nov. 13, Gov. Jim Justice (R) issued an executive order requiring all individuals to wear a mask in indoor public spaces unless eating or drinking. Individuals who are alone in a room are exempt from the requirement. Previously, Justice’s mask mandate had allowed for the removal of masks in cases where social distancing was possible. 

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the Nov. 12 edition of the newsletter. Since then, Iowa adopted a statewide public mask mandate, which we discussed above.

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

Read more: Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020


  • To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,213 lawsuits, in all 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 381 of those lawsuits. 

Noteworthy lawsuit:

  • Beshear v. Acree: On Nov. 12, the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) COVID-19 emergency orders. Writing on behalf of a unanimous court, Justice Lisabeth T. Hughes said, “The governor’s orders were, and continue to be, necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of all Kentucky citizens.” The court ruled Beshear’s actions were “consistent with decades of Kentucky precedent, which we will not overturn.” Beshear said he was “grateful not for a win but for the safety of Kentuckians.” Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne (R) said, “It appears that the court’s opinion provides further evidence of the great need to better define emergency powers granted by previous legislatures.”
    • Background: In June, three Northern Kentucky businesses sued Beshear, arguing the governor’s orders, including a statewide mask mandate and indoor occupancy restrictions, violated the state constitution and statutory rulemaking procedures. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) intervened on behalf of the plaintiffs. Boone County Circuit Court Judge Rick A. Brueggemann granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting enforcement of the orders. Following a subsequent loss at the appellate level, Beshear appealed to the state supreme court. 

Travel restrictions

Read more: Travel restrictions issued by states in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020


  • Governors or state agencies in 25 states issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 14 of those orders have been rescinded.
    • Since Nov. 10, four states have implemented travel restrictions. 


  • Maryland – On Nov. 10, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) issued a travel advisory asking Maryland residents to avoid non-essential travel to other states, especially states with a COVID-19 positivity rate greater than 10%. Residents or out-of-state travelers who arrive in Maryland from a state that meets that threshold are asked to get tested and self-quarantine until the results come back.
  • Vermont – On Nov. 11, Gov. Phil Scott (R) issued an order requiring all visitors to Vermont to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Visitors can end their quarantine after seven days if they do not have symptoms and can produce a negative COVID-19 test. Visitors engaged in essential travel are exempt from the quarantine requirement.
  • Washington – On Nov. 13, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) issued a travel advisory asking out-of-state travelers or returning residents to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. The advisory also asks Washington residents to limit non-essential travel. 
  • Maine – On Nov. 13, Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced travelers from Massachusetts would no longer be exempt from the state’s quarantine or test requirements. The exemption was removed Nov. 16.  

The 1918 influenza pandemic

Read more: 1918 influenza pandemic (Spanish Flu) and the 1918 midterm election cycle

The United States held midterm elections as scheduled during the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic. More than 50 million people perished from the disease worldwide, including about 675,000 in the U.S., making it one of the deadliest pandemics in recorded history. Each week, we’ll look back at a story from the 1918 elections to see how America met the challenges of holding elections during a national health emergency.

On Dec. 6, 1918, The Deseret Evening News reported on mask politics in Utah’s Salt Lake County.    

“Vigorous enforcement of the health order requiring the wearing of influenza masks in Salt Lake county outside the limits of incorporated cities, is already under way, says Dr. T.J. Howlls, county physician. 

Dr. Howells expressed impatience this morning that the wearing of masks had not been made compulsory in Salt Lake City.

“Much of our county influenza is traceable to Salt Lake City,” said Dr. Howells. “We regard Salt Lake as the menacing source of spread of the disease for the county.

Dr. Howells said that he is not urging the use of the masks as preferable to vaccination but is urging both. The mask, he points outs, is more quickly adopted universally. It can be adopted by an entire population overnight, while to vaccinate all requires much time at best.”

Click here to read the original article, courtesy of the University of Michigan Center for the History of Medicine and Michigan Publishing’s Influenza Encyclopedia.

Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia

Read more: Politicians, candidates, and government officials diagnosed with or quarantined due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • Federal
    • One federal official has died of COVID-19.
    • Thirty-two members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Forty-two federal officials quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • State
    • Four state-level incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • One hundred twenty-one state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19
    • Eighty-three state-level incumbents or candidates quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • Local
    • At least three local incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • At least 26 local incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • At least 26 local incumbents or candidates quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.

Since Nov. 10, four state senators, one state representative, three U.S. House members, one governor, and one mayor-elect have announced positive COVID-19 test results. One senator has announced a self-quarantine.  


  • On Nov. 9, Nebraska state Sen. Mike Groene (R), who represents District 42, announced he had contracted COVID-19 in late October.
  • On Nov. 10, Fresno, CA Mayor-elect Jerry Dryer announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Nov. 11, Iowa state Rep. Ashley Hinson (R), who represents District 67, announced she had tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On Nov. 12, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Nov. 13, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Nov. 13, Alaska state Sen. Josh Revak (R), who represents District M, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Nov. 13, Minnesota state Sen. David Senjem (R), who represents District 25, announced he tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On Nov. 15, Minnesota state Sen. Paul Gazelka (R), who represents District 9, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Nov. 16, Minnesota state Sen. Jerry Relph (R), who represents District 14, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On Nov. 16, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) announced she had tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Nov. 16, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Nov. 17. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced he would self-quarantine and await his test results after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.